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  Ghosts of Berkeley Square, The A-Haunting We Will Go
Year: 1947
Director: Vernon Sewell
Stars: Robert Morley, Felix Aylmer, Yvonne Arnaud, Claude Hulbert, Abraham Sofaer, Ernest Thesiger, Marie Lohr, Martita Hunt, A.E. Matthews, John Longden, Ronald Frankau, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Martin Miller, Wally Patch, Esme Percy, Mary Jerrold, James Hayter
Genre: Comedy, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Have you ever seen a ghost? Do you imagine them to be wrapped in a sheet, clanking chains? As you can see from this thousandth annual gathering of The Ghost Society, broadcast on television for the first time, they're not a bit like that, and one of their members, General Burlap (Robert Morley) has stationed himself at the head of the long table to relate his tale of how he was trapped for a good two hundred years or so in one mansion house in Berkeley Square. He was not alone, however, as he had a companion, his best friend Colonel Kelsoe (Felix Aylmer), and how they came to be in this predicament was a story in itself...

A lightweight trifle, this film should not be confused with such contemporaries as The Canterville Ghost or The Ghost and Mrs Muir, as its intentions were merely to make the audience laugh and they were not shy about being as silly as they could be. If it had any influence, it was over such British children's fantasy series as Rentaghost, as it took a similar view of the afterlife as the opportunity for gags and easy to master special effects: walking through wallks, "dematerialising" and the like. Nothing too weighty here, in spite of the two main characters being well and truly deceased, with only one thing to lift their spirits.

That was the possibility of royalty arriving for a visit to their mansion, the sole possibility of freeing these undead military men. Not that they died on the battlefield, it was altogether something more ridiculous that did them in as they prepared a trap for the nobleman planning to take war in a direction not pleasing to them, but they fell hoist to their own petard when the trapdoor they were testing turned out to have no mattresses beneath it. And so they died, although their attitude is a peculiarly British one of morbid primness, ensuring that the first prospective tenant is chased away by their haunting.

This inadvertently means that the house lies empty for decades, because nobody wants to live with a spook hanging around, and the two friends, sick of each other's company, fall out. Really this was a selection of themed sketches down the course of history leading up to the present day of the late forties, so Jumbo and Bulldog, as they call each other, get to meet various residents in the hope that one of them will invite the reigning monarch to tea. Japes include trying to join in with the hijinks as the mansion is transformed into a gambling den, complete with young ladies there for entertainment, never explicity depicted what they're up to, but you can well guess.

Every time the ghosts are tantalised with the chance to break the spell over them, it is cruelly yanked away, although for comedic purposes even if they are suffering. Not much of this is kneeslappingly hilarious in spite of strong leads and worthy support, but it is eccentric enough to hold the attention as the duo get to cash in on their supernatural status by attracting a tour of haunted houses, although not even their Indian rope trick can sustain them once Ernest Thesiger's investigator proclaims them authentic, but cannot admit it in public lest he lose his sceptic's reputation. The most unusual part is when the Nawab of Bagwash moves in, played by Morley in blackface, a joke that would never do these days and was probably a bit dodgy back then as he turns out to be a distant relative of Jumbo's, from his African campaign. It is deeply daft, but there are minor pleasures here, if nothing uproarious. Music by Hans May.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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